News and Press Releases

Defendant Claimed Various Ailments to Illegally Collect Disability Benefits and State Benefits

May 21, 2010

JAMES P. PITMAN, 48, of Seattle, Washington, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to a year and a day in prison, three years of supervised release and $77,918 in restitution for making a false statement to a government agent. PITMAN pleaded guilty in February 2010, after an investigation revealed that he had received Social Security Disability benefits for years, while he was fully employed and running his own business. Chief U.S. District Judge Robert S. Lasnik imposed the sentence.

PITMAN first applied for disability benefits in 1996, claiming excruciating back pain and attention problems made it impossible for him to work. His claim was initially denied, but was approved when PITMAN reported additional symptoms such as paranoia and hallucinations. In 2000, PITMAN was convicted in federal court of bank fraud, credit card fraud and money laundering and was ordered to pay more than $700,000 in restitution. When not incarcerated, PITMAN continued to receive disability benefits. From 2003 through 2008, PITMAN repeatedly told SSA that he was not working, or that he tried to work, but had to quit because of depression, back pain, or ADHD. In truth, he worked as a used car salesman, a computer salesman, a private investigator, a process server, and a talent scout. PITMAN fraudulently concealed his work in order to receive disability benefits, when no benefits were due. PITMAN’s most lucrative employment was when he opened Mercer Island Process – a business he runs to this day.

At the same time he was obtaining disability payments, PITMAN also applied for benefits for his daughter, as the child of a “disabled person.” From 2007 through 2008, despite claims of excruciating pain, PITMAN went to the gym four or five days a week to lift weights. During the period he claimed to be disabled, he also acted in short films, successfully passed the Washington State real estate license examination, and took psychology and Chinese classes at a community college. During this time PITMAN also fraudulently received child care benefits from the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) because of his claimed disability.

In asking for a sentence in the middle of the guidelines range, Special Assistant United States Attorney Johanna Vanderlee wrote to the court that, “The type of fraudulent scheme in which (PITMAN) participated weakens DSHS and SSA’s ability to provide for disabled people.... (PITMAN) chooses to focus on his lifestyle “wants,” rather than his legal and moral obligations. His actions have been, and continue to be, reprehensible.”

The case was investigated by the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General (SSA-OIG) and but the Department of Social and Health Services.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Aravind Swaminathan and Special Assistant United States Attorney Johanna Vanderlee. Ms. Vanderlee is an attorney with the Social Security Administration, specially designated to prosecute social security related crimes in federal court.

For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110 or Emily.Langlie@USDOJ.Gov.

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